Sunday, December 10, 2006


I shook Donald Rumsfeld's hand today.

He shakes with old firm hands. His eyes open towards you from their equilibrial squinting posture, that perpetual look of partly mulling over a deep question and partly a deep friendship with the answers, peering inside for the best way to explain it, to you, personally.

He wore slacks, a blue collared shirt with a top button unbuttoned, a nice jacket with lapel, but his shoes, old worn brown leather walking shoes. O'bama would not be caught laying in a casket with those shoes on. It seemed as though his shoes told the truth more openly than all the rest.

The more I watch these great earth movers that our world ancors the arch of its orbit to, the more I think most of these stalwart figures are not very different from others, from normal men and women. Still, greatness exists as a part of some people. I'm just not sure it exists in the manner we typically expect it to exist, and the ways we distance ourselves from great men and women do not leave opportunity for our expectation to be disappointed.

I wonder if those who are great do not find themselves caught in a difficulty of reconciling and closing the distance between the great part of them and the normal part of them.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed to oscillate between his low everyday humanity and the place of greatness in him with as much ease as a man walking from his house to his mailbox and back. The mystery of how such a greatness could be inside of him, of him, a simple man whose wife knows all of his daily vices of pride or stubborness, the mystery seems to have long ago been deeply accepted and to no longer pose any sense of embarassment or need to hide that "low" humanity jammed full of minute every day limitations.

It's very perplexing to wonder where greatness comes from. Then when we settle on some unseen wholly superhumanness on the part of the great person, we are left with no choice but to feel ashamed of our own humanity, or to hide our humanity and feign or construct our own greatness, and we turn suddenly vicious toward those who we were shamefully tricked into thinking were great but then show us mistakes or an incapacity for omniscience, we begin to place the select few on pedestools and alienate them from the rest of the more fallible and humane so that they will not have a chance to show our exalted beliefs to be mistaken...

all this we do, I think maybe, for the sake of committing greatness to some measure of human control. Not that any man can work his way into greatness, but that those who are great were, subtly, their own creators. Just as all of us everyday sorts are our own creators. And we have nowhere to go but to be ashamed that we couldn't create our own greatness and to idealize and alienate those who did create it.

In the end we do not feel all that ashamed, insulated in normal lives, living among normal business people who we do not let to do or say risky greatness-striving things. Our greatness-striving is marginalized into the vicarious realm of television... or the slightly less vicarious realm of layman media... like blogs.

There's another way.

Some people are very great. As I think back I think maybe Mr. Rumsfeld is, whether right or wrong, very great. But his non-chalant acceptance of himself and the way he wears his shoes could fool you. He does not lend himself to idealization, though we are very good at relegating anyone we would like to it. He smiles at you as though greatness is a mysterious occurance he does not understand, yet puts it on without hesitating to assert its fact and definitely he does not apologize.

We all hope for some sort of greatness. And dab-nabbit! only a few people are given it. But greatness, does not take the place of even an ounce of all that human color and incapacity that we're always pleading the fifth about. We should try not to be ashamed of a little humanity inexplicably brushing up against a little greatness. We should try not to shush the normal guy trying to ask the best questions he can think of. We should try not to crucify a great man for being mistaken, see Rumsfeld. And we should definitely try not to crucify him for challenging a majority view, also see Rumsfeld... or, of course, Jesus.

But even if we still do run out into the night on witchhunts egged on by partial truths, I think Rumsfeld will partly understand. And Jesus too.

He said he knew before he accepted his nomination that noone ever ends up with all friends after trying to make changes. Rumsfeld said that, not Jesus. And not because he's right, and not because he's wrong, but because change takes greatness brushing up against the rest of us.

And that's scary, with less than a facade of human control or predictability.

Do you think he came to bring peace on Earth? No, he came to bring division. Jesus did say that. Jesus is scary.


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